All posts by Paul Tchir

Afghanistan at the 1948 London Olympics

A little while ago, we covered Iraq’s delegation to the 1948 London Olympics as one of the national teams for whom we were missing considerable information. Today we want to turn our attention to another country for whom we are missing substantial data: Afghanistan. Afghanistan sent two teams to the 1948 Games, one for football and one for field hockey.

Afghanistan had actually made its début at the Games in 1936, including a field hockey team, but none of the participants returned in 1948, where they were eliminated in the preliminary round. For roughly half of the squad, we have only a year of birth: 1925 for Abdul Kadir Nuristani, Jahan Gulam Nuristani, Mohammad Kadir Nuristani, and Khan Nasrullah Totakhail, 1926 for Mohammad Jahan Nuristani, and 1928 for Mohammad Amin Nuristani, Bakhteyar Gulam Mangal, and Din Mohammad Nuristani. In the latter case, we have a possible lead, as a Din Mohammad Din M Nooristan(y/i), born c. 1927, lived for many years in Virginia. The Social Security Death Index records a Din M. Nooristani of Aldie, Virginia, who was born October 1, 1925, dying on March 17, 2008. Unfortunately, we have no proof that he was the Olympian. About the others, Ahmad Yusufzai, Ahmad Jahan Nuristani, Ahmad Tajik, Mohammad Khogaini, Mohammad Attai, and G. Jagi (who we covered in an earlier post), we know nothing at all.

In terms of the football squad, which was eliminated by Luxembourg in the qualifying round, we have much of the same problem. Abdul Hamid Tajik, Abdul Shacour Azimi, Abdul Ghani Assar, and Yar Mohammad Barakzai were born in 1923, while Abdul Ahad Kharot and Mohammad Anwar Afzal were born in 1926. About Abdul Ghafoor Yusufzai, Abdul Ghafoor Assar, Mohamed Anwar Kharot, Mohammed Sarwar, and Mohamed Ibrahim Gharzai, we again know nothing.

Finally, we wanted to thank those who recently helped us solve some of our previously-featured Olympic mysteries. One contributor provided us proof that Australian silver medal-winning track athlete Graham Gipson, born May 21, 1932, was still alive at least as of 2017. Secondly, the family of Indian sport shooter Harihar Banerjee was kind enough to confirm that he was born April 15, 1922 in Kolkata and died March 28, 1999 in the same city, in addition to providing the picture above.

1932 Belgian Art Competitors

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to take a look a Belgian art competitors from the 1932 Los Angeles Games. While we are missing much data on art competitors in general, Belgium is one country in particular for whom we have several individuals who are lacking biographical details entirely.

We know at least a little about one: Marcel Prévost. Prévost competed in the paintings, drawings, and water colors event, and while we do not know which type he submitted, we do know that it was titled Coureurs (Runners) and received an honorable mention. It was most likely a painting, as this would align with his profession, and we are aware that he later taught at the Royal Academy of Mons.

Three of our other individuals at least have full names. The most prolific of them was Hélène Gérard, who submitted six entries into the painting, graphic arts, category: Throwing the Javelin, Tango, Golf, Tennis, Aquaplaning, and Perche Shooting. Valère De Moer, meanwhile, had four entries in the sculpturing, medals and reliefs division: Insignes (Insignia), Coupe metal (Metal Goblet), and two works titled Bouchon radiateur (Radiator Mascot). Anna Van Nuffel had just one entry, Hockey, in an unknown sculpting event.

Also competing in an unknown sculpting event was a Belgian individual who went only by “Daemers”. He submitted a work entitled Cricket, and we know nothing else about them. For D. Dumortier, who submitted Régates (Regattas) in an unknown painting event, we have little to go on besides that first initial. Finally there was Deryck, who submitted a design called Stadium in the architecture competition, and whose name is quite common and possibly even pseudonymous.

(Henri Niemgeerts)

There is another Belgian art competitor from that year who is a bit of an Olympic mystery. Fritz De Boever also took part in the architecture event with the work Zwembad Van Eyck (Swimming Palace). We suspect that he was Fritz Camillus De Boever, born January 11, 1909 in Ghent, but have not been able to prove this. Finally, on the topic of Belgian Olympians, we have an update: field hockey player Henri Niemegeerts, born February 15, 1922, whom we covered in a previous blog post as having possibly reached the age of 100, actually died September 19, 2016 at the age of 94, in Waterloo, Belgium.

Updates Following the Death of Celina Seghi

Last month we unfortunately noted the death of Italian alpine skier Celina Seghi, born March 6, 1920, who died July 27 at the age of 102. At the time of her death, she was the third-oldest Olympian overall and thus held numerous “titles” among the Oldest Olympians. While usually we prefer to announce the successors in a separate post, in this case there are so many, most of whom we have covered on this page multiple times, that we decided to use our weekly blog post to highlight all of the changes.

(Yvonne Chabot-Curtet)

In terms of broad categories, Seghi was the oldest living woman to have competed at the Olympics. That distinction now goes to Yvonne Chabot-Curtet, born May 28, 1920, who represented France in the long jump at the 1948 and 1952 Summer Games. Seghi was also the oldest living Winter Olympian, a title that now goes to Australia’s Frank Prihoda, born July 8, 1921, who took part in alpine skiing at the 1956 Cortina d’Ampezzo Olympics.

(Rhoda Wurtele, pictured in a clip from My Canadian Moment)
Seghi, however, competed at the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games, which means that Prihoda cannot inherit those titles. Those mantles, therefore, are taken by Micheline Lannoy and Rhoda Wurtele respectively. Lannoy, born January 31, 1925, won a gold medal for Belgium in the pairs figure skating event at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics. Wurtele, born January 21, 1922, took part in alpine skiing at the 1952 Oslo Olympics and competed in all three events.

Seghi was also the oldest living Italian Olympian and the new titleholder in that regard is Antonio Carattino, born April 2, 1923, who took part in the Olympic sailing tournament in 1952, 1956, and 1968. Finally, to update from another death from last month, Swedish triple jumper Arne Åhman was the oldest living Olympic athletics champion at the time of his death on July 5. That distinction now goes to American Bob Richards, born February 20, 1926, who took gold in the pole vault in 1952 and 1956 (and bronze in 1948). This also makes Vanja Blomberg, born January 28, 1929, who won a gold medal in the team portable apparatus at the 1952 Helsinki Games, the oldest living Swedish Olympic champion.

The 1948 Iraqi Olympic Delegation

Iraq made its début as a country at the 1948 London Olympics and 10 out of its 11 athletes were members of the national basketball delegation. Of these individuals, we have full biographical data for only one, George Hallaq, who later moved to the United States and taught business. For most, we have no information at all, and thus we have decided to dedicate a blog post to this pioneering team.

(Labib Hasso, pictured at الاطباء العراقيون)

The odd man out in this delegation was track athlete Labib Hasso, who was born in 1925 and died prior to 2008. He was eliminated in the first round of the 400 metres and later became a well-known physician in Iraq. He was not the only Iraqi to compete in track and field that year, however, as Dallah Ali Salman, a member of the basketball squad, also ran in the 100 and 200 metres, but was eliminated in the first round of both. Unfortunately, we know nothing else about him.

(Wadud Khalil)

We also know a fair amount about Wadud Khalil, who was a multi-sport athlete and captained Iraq’s first football team in addition to his international appearances in basketball. He had a football career in Europe and eventually returned to Baghdad, after which local sources have been unable to trace the details of his life. Born in 1927, he could still be alive, but there are some suggestions that he died after 2006.

(Kanan Awni, top, and Salih Faraj, bottom)

The only other individual we know anything about is Kanan Awni who, thanks to research from Connor Mah, we have a picture for and know that he was born c. 1928. We also have a picture for Salih Faraj and are aware that he was footballer alongside Wadud Khalil, but otherwise were have no biographical details. For the remaining members, Jalil Hashim, Kadir Irfan, Hamid Ahmed, Mahdi Salman, and Yonan Emile, we know nothing at all – it is possible that we have even their names wrong.

Iraq would not make an appearance at the Olympics again until 1960, although they did intend to send a track athlete, Ghanim Mahmoud, to the 1956 edition, but he did not ultimately compete. Mahmoud, another Olympic mystery for whom we have no biographical details, did eventually take part in the Games as a member of the 4×100 metres relay in 1960.

Japan’s Delegation to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics

A few weeks ago we covered the Japanese rowing delegation at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Today on the Oldest Olympians blog, we wanted to expand our look and raise a few additional cases of Japanese Olympians who remain somewhat mysterious.

(Hwang Eul-Su, pictured at kiss7.tistory.com)

The individual that we know the most about is Hwang Eul-Su, who represented Japan in the lightweight boxing tournament under the name of Otsu Shuko while Korea was under occupation. Although he was eliminated in the first round of that competition, he was more successful domestically, winning three consecutive Japanese national championships from 1929 through 1931. After his retirement, he worked as a coach for Japan and, after World War II, for both what was to become South and North Korea. He was last heard of in 1963, after which there seems to be no additional information on his life.

Japan also sent a substantial wrestling delegation to the Los Angeles Olympics, about whom we have very uneven information. For example, we know almost nothing about two members of the team: Yoshio Kono, who was eliminated in round two of the welterweight, freestyle event, and Shuichi Yoshida, who met the same fate in the Greco-Roman division. Two others, Kiyoshi Kase of the featherweight, Greco-Roman category and Eitaro Suzuki of the lightweight, freestyle event, are also lacking biographical details, but we at least know that they were active early enough to certainly be deceased.

(Boxing Postcard by Tomotari Sakurai)

If we were to expand our examination even further, we could mention Kiyoshi Murai, a reserve with the water polo squad about whom we know nothing. It might be more fruitful, however, to bring up the Olympic art competitors, of whom Japan sent many. For example, Toru Arai was active during the 1930s and competed in the painting competitions in 1932 and 1936, likely by submitting woodblock prints, but we lack biographical details. Tomotari Sakurai, meanwhile, competed in an unknown painting event, and while we have an example of his work, we otherwise know very little about his career or life. There is also Eiichi Kawasaki, who took part in sculpturing, about whom we also know nothing.

Historical Oldest Living Olympians

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to use our blog post to highlight an update to the Oldest Olympians site, specifically the historical list of the oldest living Olympian. Thanks to a little additional research, we have been able to complete the table to the beginning of the Games!

(Emily Rushton)

Previously, we knew that Emily Rushton, an archer in the Double National Round tournament at the 1908 London Games, had been the oldest Olympian at some point in her life, as she was born in the first quarter of 1850 and died June 30, 1939 at the age of 89. What we were not certain about, however, was if John Butt had ever held the title. Butt, a two-time Olympic trap shooting medalist, was born October 30, 1850, meaning he was definitely younger than Rushton, and died at some point in 1939. If he had died after June 30, then he would have been the oldest living Olympian until his death, but we finally discovered that he died in the first quarter of 1939, meaning that he was never the titleholder.

(Luc Alessandri)

From there, our journey back in time was a little easier. Before Rushton, George Barnes, born sometime in 1849 and died January 25, 1934, was the oldest living Olympian. He won bronze in the small-bore rifle, prone, 50 and 100 yards competition at the 1908 London Games and, although we do not know the exact date of his birth, no one else could have held the title since the death of his predecessor, British art competitor Jacob Rees. Rees, born October 15, 1844, represented Great Britain in the architecture competition at the 1912 Stockholm Games, and died one day after his 89th birthday. He in turn was preceded by 1904 American roque silver medalist Smith Streeter, who died December 17, 1930. Although Streeter’s date of birth is sometimes seen as July 1, 1851, records indicate that he was actually born July 14, 1844. Before him was French fencer Luc Alessandri, born May 31, 1842, who competed in the masters sabre event at the 1900 Paris Games and died August 18, 1926.

(David McGowan)

Prior to Alessandri, the oldest living Olympian was American archer David McGowan, born January 10, 1838 and died September 22, 1924. He competed in the double York round in 1904 and placed 11th. He had been the oldest Olympian for over a decade, since the death of French equestrian Louis, Count du Douet de Graville on October 12, 1912. Graville, who was born February 27, 1831, took part in the four-in-hand equestrian driving competition in 1900. Before Graville, French sailor William Martin was the oldest living Olympian, someone we have covered in the past because he is the Olympian with the earliest known date of birth: October 25, 1828.

(Eugen Schmidt)

Since Martin competed in 1900, however, we still needed to know who was the oldest living Olympian prior to his competition. Thankfully, working forwards from the 1896 Athens Games was not a difficult task. The first “oldest Olympian” was Eugen Schmidt of Denmark, born February 17, 1862, who competed in the very first Olympic event, the 100 metres dash. He held the title for two days, until Italian sport shooter Giuseppe Rivabella, born sometime in 1840, competed on April 8. An individual born as late as Schmidt would not hold the title again for six decades. Rivabella then held the title until Martin competed in 1900.

And that completes the list! Of course, we are missing lots of data on early competitors at the Games, so it seems likely that this will change at some point in the future. For example, since we last posted about Olympians who competed for an unknown country, Olympedia has added one more to its database: an unknown rider who competed in the equestrian jumping competition at the 1900 Paris Games. On the other end of the spectrum, we learned that Italian gymnast Bianca Ambrosetti, who is usually cited as the shortest-lived Olympian after having died in 1929 from tuberculosis at the age of 15, actually lived a few years longer according to research by Diego Rossetti, dying March 27, 1933 at the age of 19. For now, however, we have the most complete list we can get with our current data!

1932 Japanese Rowing Delegation

A while back on Oldest Olympians, we covered the Japanese rowing delegation to the 1928 Amsterdam Games, and today we wanted to briefly cover a squad that is equally mysterious to us: the 1932 delegation. Japan entered two crews into the tournament in Los Angeles, one each for the coxed fours and the eights, and we know very little about both delegations.

(Umetaro Shibata, pictured on the left, at a ceremony of the Olympians Association of Japan)

We do know the biographical details of one member of the coxed fours crew that was eliminated in the round one repêchage: Shokichi Nanba, born September 26, 1911 in Tokyo and died January 24, 1995. Like the other members of his crew, Nanba represented Keio University, but Nanba later had a prominent career in business, which is why we know more about him. We have learned at least the date of birth of two others: Rokuro Takahashi and Umetaro Shibata were both born in 1909, and we covered Shibata in an earlier blog post because he was still alive in 2006 at the age of 97. About the other two members, Daikichi Suzuki and Norio Ban, we have no information.

(Hidemitsu Tanaka)

As for the eights crew, from Waseda University, we know full biographical details for two of the rowers: Setsuji Tanaka and Hidemitsu Tanaka, the latter of whom later became a well-known novelist. For another two, Kenzo Ikeda and Setsuo Matsura, we are aware that they were born in Hiroshima Prefecture. For the others, Taro Nishidono, Shigeo Fujiwara, Yoshio Enomoto, Saburo Hara, and Toshi Sano, we have no biographical details, although we have learned that Enomoto is definitely deceased.

Gebhard Büchel

Today on Oldest Olympians, we thought that we might be celebrating the 101st birthday of Gebhard Büchel, who represented Liechtenstein in the decathlon at the 1948 London Games. Unfortunately, as we have had no confirmation of his 100th birthday over the past year, and in fact have had no confirmation of his being alive since 2013, we have unfortunately had to remove him from our lists. Complicating matters, he had a namesake who was born on the exact same date and died in 2008, thus making it difficult to find information on the Olympian.

Until we find evidence about Büchel one way or another, we will be listing Theodor Sele, born April 20, 1931, as the oldest living Olympian from Liechtenstein. Sele represented his country at two editions of the Olympic alpine skiing tournament. In 1948 in St. Moritz, he was 58th in the combined and 90th in the downhill. In 1956 in Cortina d’Ampezzo, he was 45th in the slalom and 70th in the giant slalom.

(Francisc Horvath)

On a related note, thanks to a submission from Connor Mah, we learned that Mărgărit Blăgescu, born August 26, 1925, whom we believed previously to be the oldest living Romanian Olympian, actually died in March 24 at the age of 78. Moreover, the next two oldest Romanian Olympians may be deceased as well. We covered Francisc Horvath, born October 19, 1928, on a previous edition of Olympic medal mysteries, as he won bronze in bantamweight, Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1956 Melbourne Games. One user provided a report that showed him alive in 2021, but others have pointed out sources that he died in 1969 or 1980, and it remains unclear which is correct. The next, athlete Emma Konrad, born November 21, 1929, purportedly died May 16, 2021 according to a Wikipedia edit, but we have not been able to verify this.

(Carol Bedö)

This would leave Carol Bedö, born December 13, 1930, as the oldest living Romanian Olympian. Bedö represented his country in the gymnastics tournament at the 1952 Helsinki Games, where he was 20th with the team and had a best individual finish of joint-55th in the floor exercise. Even in this case, however, the last evidence we have of his being alive comes from 2013. Finally, while we are on the topic of Romanian Olympians, we wanted to thank Ronald Halmen for discovering that 1928 Olympic athlete Otto Schop, who we mentioned in a previous post, was actually Arnold Otto Schöpp, born June 4, 1907 in Sebeș and died January 29, 1973 in Sibiu.

1928 and 1948 Olympic Lacrosse Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians, we wanted to shift our attention to a sport that tends to receive less attention: lacrosse. In particular, we wanted to look at a handful of mysteries from the tournaments at the 1928 and 1948 Summer Games, when lacrosse was a demonstration sport, and focus on the British players at both tournaments.

(Eric Parsons, pictured in the Burnley Express, October 19, 1949)

For 1928, we have two main mysteries. The first is Frederick Johnson, born May 9, 1905, who represented Old Mancunians domestically. We know that he was active in lacrosse throughout the second half of the 1920s and later had a career as a chartered accountant, living in Cuba and South Africa in the 1930s. Although we know that he was deceased by 1960, we have been unable to come up with an exact date or place of death. We know less about Eric Parsons, other than that he played for Disley, near Stockport, and was living in Nelson, Lancashire in 1949. Connor Mah has suggested that he may have been William Eric Parsons, born September 5, 1902 in Disley and died April 27, 1968 in Lancashire, but we have been unable to confirm this.

(Photograph of the British team in the 1948 London Olympics, courtesy of the family of player Rick Wilson)

For 1948, we have three mysteries, one of whom lacks even a full name: H. Wyatt. We do know that he played domestically with Boardman & Eccles, so he may be Harry Leslie Wyatt, born September 6, 1910 in Eccles and died Q4 1987 in Newport, Wales, but this is just one possible candidate. For a second, we have at least a nickname: J. H. “Jack” Little. He played for a team from Chorlton-cum-Hardy, so he may be John Harrison Little, born August 7, 1915 in that town and died August 1980. Again, however, we have no proof.

The third individual, John Foy, is a little more complicated. We actually know a great deal about his career, as he was a player from his teenage years in 1926 all the way through 1960! We have him listed as John P. Foy, but contemporary sources as unearthed by Connor Mah suggested that his middle initial was actually B. If this is correct, then he could be John Bernard Foy, born May 9, 1912 in Chorlton and died April 30, 1986 in Burnage, Manchester. As always, of course, this is not certain.

Finally, while we are on the topic of unofficial Olympians, we have an update on Eulogio Quiroz, a light-heavyweight boxer who was slated to represent Peru at the 1936 Berlin Games, but did not start. We were able to confirm that he was indeed Eulogio Quiroz Andrade, born March 11, 1913 in Huacho and died October 7, 1976 in Lima.

First Half of 1932 Olympic Medal Mysteries

Today on Oldest Olympians we wanted to cover three Olympic medal mysteries who were born in 1932. These are individuals who won a medal at the Olympics and who would now be over 90, but for whom we have no recent evidence of their being alive or any proof that they are deceased.

Wilfried Lorenz – Silver medalist for Germany in Dragon class sailing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

Wilfried Lorenz, born January 18, 1932, represented Germany in the Dragon class sailing event at the 1964 Tokyo Games and won a silver medal. Domestically, he was an East German national champion from 1960 through 1963 and in 1965, and was runner-up in 1966 and 1967. Beyond that, however, we have no further details of his life.

(Vladimir Kryukov)

Vladimir Petrov – Bronze medalist for the Soviet Union in coxed pairs rowing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Vladimir Petrov, born April 27, 1932, represented the Soviet Union in the coxed pairs rowing event at the 1956 Melbourne Games, where he won a bronze medal. He was also a member of the eights crew that was eliminated in the semi-finals. In the latter case, this makes him a teammate of a still-unresolved Olympic medal mystery that we covered earlier: Vladimir Kryukov, born October 2, 1925, who took silver in the coxed eights at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Both Petrov and Kryukov were European Champions in the eights in 1955, while Petrov was European runner-up in the coxed pairs in 1957.

(Graham Gipson, pictured in the Sunday Times)

Graham Gipson – Silver medalist for Australia in the 4×400 metres relay at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics

Graham Gipson, born May 21, 1932, represented Australia in three track events at the 1956 Melbourne Games, having the most success in the 4×400 metres relay, where his country won the silver medal. Gipson was the Australian champion in the 440 yards in 1953 and achieved several other podium finishes between then and 1958. Research by Connor Mah indicates that his wife died in 2012 and was buried in a family plot, and since Graham is not there, we suspect that he is still alive, although we have been unable to locate any proof.

(Mihhail Kaaleste)

Finally, on the subject of medalists, we wanted to address a recent removal: we had previously listed Mihhail Kaaleste, born August 20, 1931, who won a silver medal in K2 1000 canoeing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, on our charts as living, but we discovered recently that he died May 5, 2018 in St. Petersburg.